Throwing in the (hand) towel



I’ve been a freelance kind of guy by trade since quitting the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in July, 1985 at the beginning of my second year. The stroke of luck that landed me with the deal for my first film, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR, has continued more or less for 23 years to varying degrees. Never rich but not quite poor, I’ve essentially accomplished what I set out to do more than two decades ago, which is to get by doing what I love. I never wanted to be famous and I never wanted to be rich. Ask and ye shall receive! 😉

When I pulled up stakes from Ohio and moved to L.A. for the second time in 1997, I didn’t really have a plan or an objective. When I hooked up with Full Moon some months later after getting hired to edit & mix SHRIEKER, I wound up getting sucked into what should have been the ideal situation for a guy like me: Cut a few movies to prove your worth, take on a bunch of other post work using the poor man’s skills that I had picked up over the years of having to do things the hard way and get rewarded by being paid the most money I’ve ever been paid to be their post-production supervisor. It should have been a dream come true… working on movies, being resourceful and getting paid!

Eventually that gig led me to producing a stream of features for the company, and that’s probably where this story really begins. Not content to cut & run on a high note after delivering WITCHOUSE 2: BLOOD COVEN in 2000, I sold my soul to the Devil to keep the money coming and by the end of 2001, I was fried. After a failed attempt to deflect the work onto one of my posse, I came back for more abuse in 2002 and by the end of directing DEADLY STINGERS, I knew it was time to either move on or mount Charlie Band’s head on the hood of my Ford Explorer.

Needless to say, I made the less-criminal choice and jumped ship to make Tempe Video a full-time venture. Production had lost a lot of its charm for me by 2003, a byproduct of the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.” Well, OK, I hadn’t exactly wished for making movies with Full Moon — just a few years earlier I would have laughed if someone had even suggested it to me since I wasn’t really a fan of their stuff. But I did put myself in the position to take their abuse and fanned the flames of it over the course of 5 years by saying “Yes” over and over and over again.

Banking my future on Tempe Video also proved to be a dicey proposition at best. Between 2002 and 2006, I leapt from one subdistributor to another, accumulating debt (and product returns) like a magnet in a bowl of paper clips. After finally going direct with the last few key accounts in 2006, I figured my troubles were behind me since I was now the captain of my own destiny. But it wasn’t going to change much… the industry is just not set up for the little guy, and the DVD biz has fallen off year after year since I got into it in 2001.

At the end of 2007, I got a double-blast of bad news as vendors started returning unsold product en masse at the same time as I was slammed with a costly I.R.S. audit. That put me in the unsafe position of suddenly not being paid by my vendors for new sales (since their returns become a credit against monies owed) at the same time that I was being slammed with a huge tax bill dating back to 2005-2006.

I took out a loan to get the taxman off my back, but the returns have just kept on coming all year. It’s not a good sign when you seem to take back more product than you remember selling in the first place! But sadly, this isn’t an X-Files-esque conspiracy involving some efficient bootleg operation across the Mexican border, working overtime to produce extra copies of my titles… rather, there just aren’t enough fans of this stuff buying anymore. Most of our diehard fans are also filmmakers (or wannabe filmmakers), and their disposable income is probably going into their own movies when it isn’t filling their gas tanks at $4-plus a gallon.

I predicted this a long time ago so I’ve adapted to the situation over time, but the long and the short of it is, there’s nowhere to go but down with the DVD biz now. Surviving the DVD biz rollercoaster ride was fine back in my single man days, but having been remarried 2 years ago and having the wife knocked up with my child now, the bloom is off the digital rose for good, and for the first time in more years than I can count, a day job is looking really good to me again. I don’t look at it as throwing in the towel exactly… more like throwing in the hand towel (albeit a battered and bloody one), since I’m shifting my self-employment and freelance activities into a lower gear while I focus on wife, kid and house for now.

Tempe ain’t dead and our catalog isn’t going anywhere (for now). It’s just not going to be my sole focus moving forward, between freelance writing gigs and some sort of steadier gig to occupy my days with. Stay tuned!



This entry was posted on Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 6:33 pm and is filed under Family, Random Thoughts, Tempe Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Throwing in the (hand) towel”

  1. Lurid Chief Says:

    I said it before and I’ll say it again–we need to get a great big truck and HAUL DIRT!

  2. kgb1138 Says:

    Children always change the picture, but make no mistake J.R you done good, and you should be proud of your accomplishments. Take care.

  3. DCinMass Says:

    Not all of your diehard fans are filmmakers. Some of us are writers. But I suppose that doesn’t help much …